There is a small saying which goes along the lines of ‘Do one thing really really well’.
Instagram applied this thinking to mobile design and did image sharing really well. Arguably one of the most popular apps ever, as well as selling to Facebook for that magic number of one billion dollars, there is success and value in simplicity.
The introduction of video to the service is starting to break this model that has worked so well for Instagram.
Here is a few reasons why I think it it doesn’t work:
Creating compelling video is hard. Instagram’s strength has always been in simplicity, limited options in terms of how much an image could be manipulated created a somewhat level playing field for users, the general quality of content that comes from average users is okay.
Video on the other hand has always had a higher point of entry, probably the main reason it’s never really took off wide scale. A few interesting filters won’t do the same for video that they can successfully do for a single frame image. There will no doubt be some great things produced with the new feature, but for the average user the amount of extra work and thinking involved in shooting video will fill up my feed with mediocre videos from friends that I don’t have the heart to unfollow.
I much preferred separating that experience to another app like Vine.
I love quickly scrolling through my feed and double tapping the images I enjoyed. Since video the interactions have felt weird, I’ve mis-tapped and set off a video, as well as stopping a video by trying to like it etc. Although minor issues they definitely have a negative impact on the way I used quickly catch up on content people share.
Secondly the work flow is a lot more complex then snapping a quick picture. Shoot/import, edit, add context and posting was an efficient work flow for most users. Composing frames, editing, choosing a cover photo, adding context and posting for video on the other hand seems to take away the effectiveness of instant sharing that happened previously.
Also 15 seconds is way too long when compared to Vine.
SPEED AND STABILITY
Not much to say here except the app just feels slower now with the added weight. Even with video auto play turned off it doesn’t feel as snappy as it was before, especially on 3G. I’ve also seen it get hung up and crash out more then usual. These are small details I’m sure the engineering team can iron out but it’s disappointing seeing a great experience get bloated.
Quite possibly the worst thing Instagram did was default autoplay videos. Although it didn’t effect me, I’m generally on wifi and have a large data package, if my first experience as a user was opening the app and blasting through a quarter of my data plan for the month or worse quickly checking in on a roaming package while travelling I would feel pretty shitty.
Many none technical users may not even realize what effect this is having until a huge bill comes through. I’m probably one of a small set of users that reads the change log before updating but for many users that didn’t anticipate video when they opened the app there may have been consequences, hopefully the team can address this with an alert on launch in an update.
STRENGTH IN SIMPLICITY
Instagram proved that the success in mobile comes at doing one thing really well. It’s still a great product and I will of course continue to use it, I just don’t love as much as I did.
Please Instagram don’t make a habit of doing these Facebooky things.